Something unusual happened when the in-person votes were tallied in Brooklyn’s 46th Assembly District. Republican candidate Mark Szuskiewicz led incumbent Democrat Mathylde Frontus by more than 2,300 votes.
“I was surprised. I think anybody living in Coney Island was probably a little bit surprised,” Frontus said. “As you’ve probably been reading, we’ve been under the Democratic leadership in this seat for almost a hundred years.”
State Assembly races in the five boroughs are rarely competitive. The seats are often dominated by Democrats who win handily after sometimes facing competitive primaries. But on Staten Island, Republicans do win and often hold seats, and now in neighboring south Brooklyn, a Republican may hold on to win.
But Szuskiewicz is no ordinary Republican. He embraces false conspiracy theories in his online posts, including one from “Red Pill,” a site dedicated to sowing doubt about the risks of coronavirus. And sometimes he mentions QAnon, the sprawling conspiracy theory that includes absurd claims that Democrats are devil worshippers involved in child sex trafficking.
“He regularly would post the QAnon hashtags — Q, QAnon, new world order — and a host of other acronyms that are code for subscribers of that conspiracy theory,” said Frontus. “What we are taking about now is we are talking about a fringe element of the Republican Party, which is not even mainstream. And I think it should cause everyone to be a little bit concerned.”
Szuskiewicz declined to speak with us. But a spokesperson, who, like those who spread QAnon, asked to remain anonymous, told us, “On issues as varied as public safety and supporting police to sensible housing policy, Democrats are expelling those who dare to disagree with them.”
One video from the campaign’s Instagram account shows the candidate speaking to reporters before last week’s vote.
“When are the Democrats going to say that enough is enough? When are they going to realize that the restrictive policies, or de Blasio and Cuomo with this ridiculous bail reform — they are destroying all the major cities across the country and they are trying to destroy New York. And we are not going to let that happen,” Szuskiewicz said.
New York’s process of counting absentee ballots is slow, compared to other states. And while Frontus could take the lead once all those votes are counted, Democrats we spoke with were not highly optimistic.